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LAPD recovers air guns after men were spotted on downtown hotel roof with what looked like weapons [Updated]

March 8, 2010 |  5:06 pm

Los Angeles police shut down streets encompassing a five-square-block area of downtown Monday afternoon after several men were seen on the roof of a hotel with weapons that turned out to be air guns.

The incident was reported about 4 p.m. at the Huntington Hotel. The four or five men, who appeared to be young adults, were on top of the building bounded by Spring and Main Streets near 8th Street, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

Video shot from a KABC Channel 7 helicopter showed several men on the roof who appeared to be wielding handguns as they walked around on the roof. After a brief time, they disappeared down a stairwell, appearing to stash the weapons inside.

Police conducted a search and discovered the air guns. Officers at the scene say several youths with toy air guns were questioned at the residential hotel but were not arrested.

"From a technical standpoint, there is no crime," said Lt. Paul Vernon of the LAPD. "But I would classify this as felony stupid. No one should be on the roof of a downtown hotel with handguns -- real or not."

[Updated 7:26 p.m.: As officers entered the building, an LAPD sniper had to make a quick decision about whether to pull his trigger, Vernon said. The sniper had his sights fixed on one of the men, who was leaning over the roof with his weapon, which appeared to be a Tec-9 sub-machine gun. But it was not pointed at the officers.

"Had he pointed that gun at the officers, he would have lost his life," Vernon said.]

-- Robert J. Lopez and Andrew Blankstein